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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bloggers as Journalists: What Would Paul Harvey Say?

Mr. Gebhart's inquiry into the status of bloggers as journalists has sparked discussion worth reading from Drs. Newquist and Blanchard. If I may take a turn...

Paul Harvey died yesterday. I enjoyed his radio program. He occasionally said things I disagree with, but then so do a lot of other people I listen to.

Blog disdainers, please don't think I speak ill of the dead when I say this: Paul Harvey was an archetype for bloggers. He said so himself:

don't think of myself as a profound journalist. I think of myself as a professional parade watcher who can't wait to get out of bed every morning and rush down to the teletypes and pan for gold [quoted in "Famed U.S. Broadcaster Paul Harvey Dies at Age 90," Reuters.com, 2009.02.28].

No one, least of all Harvey himself, pretended that Paul Harvey was an objective journalist. His daily news broadcasts were his idiosyncratic sampling of stories he thought worth mentioning, peppered with his quips and commentary. He did it on the radio; we do it on the Internet. And we do it for reasons similar to those that kept Harvey going until the end. About the prospect of retirement, Harvey said:

What would I do? Play more golf? The way I play? My goodness that's real torment. And I certainly don't enjoy sitting on a creek bank drowning worms more than one day a year. I'd rather be sitting at that typewriter painting pictures. I'd rather be doing that than anything else [Reuters].

Does our painting pictures at our keyboards count as journalism worthy of a federal shield law? That's open for debate. But our blogging—the whole South Dakota blogosphere that you come to read each day, and beyond—is in many ways much like the storytelling out of which Paul Harvey built a personally satisfying, lifelong career.

Then again, in an extensive 2002 interview with the Chicago Tribune's Rich Kogan, Harvey said, "I'm ignoring computers, hoping they'll go away."


  1. I think Paul Harvey would say write, write, write. While sometimes he let snark creep into his deliveries, he was a part of Chicago-style journalism that never let go of its literary roots. His wife, Angel, who was an English major, did much to contribute what distinguished Paul Harvey and his Chicago cohorts like Studs Terkel from the rest of the mainstream. His writing exploited the power of the narrative, the telling of stories.

    My colleague, Silas, from the SUNY system used Paul Harvey in his writing courses in which Silas pointed out that the formula news story taught in journalism texts ran counter to dynamics of the story. Paul Harvey used the tradition of a literary genre of journalism and enhanced it with that gift of voice.

    Unlike most bloggers, he worked, reworked, and refined his material, but most importantly he used the power of the story to lift his listeners out of self-absorption. And he made millions in doing it.

  2. You sir, are no Paul Harvey.

  3. [...and you are no majority, if you remain silent. ;-) ]

    Never claimed the SD Blogosphere was. But we are part of the same tradition, pursuing the same goals, with different tools... and slightly less ad revenue.


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